One of Northland's most beloved rugby players has re-signed for the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup season.

Rene Ranger has returned from France to ply his trade for his home province as they look to improve on a strong 2017 campaign.

The 31-year-old has played 76 matches in the Cambridge blue since his debut in 2006, including a stint as captain.

He played in six All Blacks tests from 2010-13 and has 76 appearances for the Blues to his name.

Advertisement

Ranger exercised his exit clause with French club La Rochelle to return back to Northland for the upcoming season.

Ranger epitomises the term "cult figure". With his flowing dreadlocks and game-breaking ability, the Wellsford centre could singlehandedly change a game.

The mere sighting of his name on the team sheet would pack sidelines at provincial and club matches alike.

2017 saw massive crowd increases at home games for Northland and Ranger's presence was more than coincidental.

Ranger's family is clearly the most important thing to him.. He turned his back on his All Black dream in 2013 to leave for France, aiming to provide for his young family.

"It was probably one of the hardest decisions I've ever made [turning down the All Blacks]," he said in 2013.

"It was probably the hardest after signing the contract to go overseas. It was difficult but, in my opinion, family is always first and family is second."

Northland's 2018 side is becoming clearer by the week as a strong core of players from their semi-final run a year ago remain.

Seventeen players from last season are currently re-signed while new players will be integrated.

Props Jack Straker and Isileli Tu'ungafasi, loose forward Kane Jacobson, halfback Jono Kitto, first five Jack Debreczeni and midfielder Regan Verney are the new faces.

Ranger and Jack Goodhue could once again form the best midfield combination in the Mitre 10 Cup. However, Goodhue's recent selection in the All Blacks it may cause a re-think.

Other midfield options include former New Zealand Under 20 player Tamati Tua, current New Zealand U20 player Scott Gregory, Kamo's Blake Hohaia and newcomer Verney.

Tua and Hohaia both featured during the 2017 season while Gregory and Verney are yet to play for the Taniwha.

However, Gregory has been in action for the Blues A side and Verney featured in Wellington's Championship-winning side last season.